In North Carolina, generally defendants, after they have been arrested, are released under one of four scenarios.
1. Written Promise to Appear – In the movies, they call this “released on your own recognizance.” It simply means that the person arrested and jailed is released from jail and makes a written promise to appear at the next court date (and to stay out of trouble). Under North Carolina’s statute, this is the preferred method of releasing someone from jail.
2. Written Promise of Another – This option is used if the person arrested is underage (or, perhaps, mentally retarded). In this case, the judge orders the release of the individual on the written promise of another person, usually a family member, to supervise the person, and make sure the person appears at the next court date.
3. Unsecured Bond – If a judge or magistrate sets an “unsecured bond,” it means that the individual who has been arrested is released, but if the individual fails to show up at the next appearance, the person will automatically be required to pay the bond amount. For instance, if the unsecured bond is set at $5,000, the individual pays nothing to get out of jail, but will be required to pay the full $5,000 if the individual fails to show up at the next court date.
4. Secured Bond – This is the toughest bail condition. Under this bail condition, the arrestee/defendant must post the full bond himself (or the family must post the full bond), or the arrestee/defendant can pay a bondsman to agree to post the full bond. If the person posts the full bond himself or through his family, and the person appears at subsequent court dates, then the court will return the bond to the person.
If the person posts the bond using a bondsman, the bondsman takes a fee – usually between 10 and 15 percent – which the bondsman keeps. In exchange, the defendant is released from custody. If the defendant fails to show up for court, the bondsman is permitted under the law to track down the defendant and produce him for the court. Or the bondsman will be required to pay the full bond and lose that money.
You can see why someone like Dogg the Bounty Hunter is often hired by bondsmen to track down people who have skipped bond. Most bondsman do not like to lose $50,000 (or whatever the bond might be set at). They’d rather pay a skip tracer/bounty hunter to find the defendant and return him to jail.
If you hire an attorney, most bondsmen consider that a less risky bond to make, and will take 10 percent, rather than 15 percent. On a $30,000, that means the payment to the bondsman is $3,000 rather than $4,500.
If you think you might be arrested, in addition to finding an attorney who can represent you, you should also get the money together to pay the bond.
In addition, you should talk to your attorney about who might appear at your first appearance hearing so that the best case can be made for the least restrictive, lowest bond.
The lower the bond, the less you have to pay. And if you have otherwise a clean record, you may even be able to get an unsecured bond set for you.